Your Story is Not My Story

I was reading this poignant Dear Adoption, If I Could post today written by a 17-year-old Colombian adoptee.  The feelings are raw; however, I could identify with all of them.  In the comments, there was one that stood out to me which was kind but explanatory of why a child might be given up . . . .the commenter, Cindy, writes, 

“Please know that so very many mothers and fathers wanted their children with all their heart and soul.  .  .. . circumstances or forces beyond their control often separated them from the children they loved and wanted. If a family is in severe poverty and no one aids them and there is no hope of help, a parent’s heart will find a way to keep their children alive . . even if it means letting them go to someplace or someone who can ensure they will be fed and cared for.  It’s no ‘choice’ but rather desperate circumstances . . . . . “

On the face of it, this comment seems perfectly true and appears to want to help the original writer to decrease their pain because a “choice” was not made – only circumstances prevented this child from being kept within the biological family.  However, as I read the comment, I couldn’t help but think about all the times when I or others I know have expressed pain at our predicament as adopted people, only to have a handy explanation served back.

But here’s the thing . . .

You don’t know what her/his family’s circumstances were . . . .so why are you trying to imply to someone that their family had to choose between starvation and keeping their flesh and blood?  This happens a lot when both adoptees and birth mothers get talking on the same Facebook thread. 

Example:  Adoptee posts about experience/pain/reunion story, and birth parent comments that she had no choice because of the culture/finances/parents/age/etc. 

This might sound harsh but, I don’t want to hear your explanations about my situation.  Your explanations do not necessarily apply to my situation.  You don’t know the whole story.  You weren’t there.  Your parents might have coerced you to relinquish and you wanted to keep your child with all your heart, but decided ultimately to relinquish.  Your best friend may have been living in near-identical circumstances and she decided to parent.  Your circumstances, story, ideas and values do not apply to me.  You are not my mother and you did not necessarily share my mother’s identical circumstances.

This adoptee who is from Colombia may have not been anywhere close to starvation.  It could have been an affair.  It could have been a family that did not value their offspring.  It could have been any number of situations.  But here is the thing: It doesn’t matter.  It does not change the feelings of inadequacy, the guilt, the loyalty conflicts, the pain.   After hearing an explanation that may or may not apply, I don’t suddenly feel happy that I am adopted.  No, not even close. It feels invalidating to receive explanations from people who are not part of your story, no matter how well-meaning. 

You might think you know my situation, my circumstances, because a social worker/family member/church member told you my story, but you weren’t there.  You didn’t live it and you have no idea what you are talking about.  Not all Baby Scoop era adoptees were given up because of the taboos of single parenthood.  Not all international adoptees were relinquished due to starvation.  Not all open adoptions in the U.S. stay open for the duration of the child-rearing years. 

You don’t know someone else’s story so please do not try to explain my story based on your story’s circumstances.

Adoption is never black-and-white.  Adoption is not a one-story-fits-all.  Listen.  Validate.


  1. [ It could have been a family that did not value their offspring. ]

    But most people *do* love and keep their children.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. You are correct Mei-Ling. Most people keep their children. Sadly there are families that do not value their offspring. I could have used the opposite example but my point was that we just don't know the reason and that is beside the point.

    3. This comment has been removed by the author.


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